Change is afoot at Coca-Cola. Chairman and chief executive Douglas
Ivester resigned last Sunday in a blaze of publicity, after just two
years at his post. His replacement is 56-year-old Coke veteran Douglas N
Daft, who has been appointed president and chief operating officer and
will take Ivester’s title next April. He is a man tipped to reverse the
turmoils of 1999.
Many are saying that Ivester’s iron approach is being ousted by a more
personable front, a man whose experience of difficult foreign markets
and love of people could reverse Coke’s recent fortunes.
But none can be envious of the task that awaits Daft - putting the fizz
back into Coke will be no mean feat after such a catastrophic year. If
you enjoy global domination, you must expect disaster to be global
Coke has suffered blows in different parts of the world. The Belgian
contamination crisis in June and the French government’s blocking of
Coke’s dollars 733m (pounds 452m) bid for Pernod-Ricard’s Orangina were
as damaging as a racial-discrimination writ in its home town of Atlanta,
Daft also has to contend with furious bottlers, outraged at Coke’s
decision to raise the price of its concentrate twice as much as in
Then there are the European Union and Italian and Austrian anti-trust
authorities, all keeping a watchful eye on allegations that the company
has abused its market position.The Italian authority will rule this
month - with the potential to make an dollars 80m (pounds 49m) fine.
Finally, he must confront Coke’s sinking stock price and its
As news of the management changes emerged, shares slumped 7% to dollars
59.94 in the 24 hours from Wall Street’s close last Monday.
Roy Burry, analyst at Brown Brothers Harriman in New York, said: ’He
must adjust the company’s strategies to fit the changing market and
redefine and adjust long-term volume and earning growth.’
So who is this man being tipped to bring back Coke’s all-American smile
and credible global reputation?
Well, for a start Daft is the first non-US citizen to tackle the top job
at Coke, a background that will immediately make him more appealing as a
global leader. Ivester’s famed predecessor, Roberto Goizueta, although
born in Cuba, was a US citizen by the time he became chief
Daft is Australian, and an international diplomat who has handled some
of the toughest consumer markets during his 30 years with Coke.
By contrast, he is a former maths teacher, who washes his own car at the
weekend. ’The kind of man you’d like to have as a dinner companion,’
says Manny Goldman, global consumer analyst at Merrill Lynch.
Daft has a degree in mathematics from the University of New England and
a post-graduate degree in business administration from the University of
New South Wales. He has a wife, Delphine, and two adult children.
His CV is full of international ventures, with a humble beginning in
Coke’s Sydney branch. Later he went to Indonesia as assistant to the
After a year running his own business, Daft returned to Sydney as
manager of planning and special projects. He moved to Hong Kong in 1977
and a series of senior positions throughout East Asia, eventually
becoming senior vice-president of Coke’s Pacific group in 1987.
It wasn’t until 1991 that he finally reached the company’s Atlanta
headquarters to claim the role of Pacific Group president. By 1995, he
was president of the Middle and Far East group and, earlier this year,
his responsibilities were expanded to include the company’s Africa group
and Schweppes Beverage Division.
Evidently, Daft has a solid understanding of the international and
developing markets, in finance as well as people. Coke spokesman Randy
Donaldson pinpoints his international experience as one of the main
reasons why he will be so at ease heading a global corporation.
This is where Ivester was said to stumble, relying on a logical outlook,
rather than on the humanity to which Coke has attached itself. Daft will
also escape the ’global imperialist’ label that dogged his Georgia-born
Goldman says: ’Doug is a person’s person. He has dealt successfully with
a difficult market area and his experience outside the US will be a
plus.He is one of the best people to handle sticky governmental
While Daft may be more likeable, he will not be a soft touch. Donaldson
has described him as ’very tough’, and stated that although he has a
knack of putting people at their ease, he will get straight to the
Daft will bring an understanding of the pitfalls of arrogant
Americanised marketing and an ability to communicate, rather than
alienate, when there are difficulties.
But it is Aussie charm to which Daft himself has attributed his
In 1996, he was quoted in the University of New England’s alumni
magazine as saying of Australians: ’We’re clever, we’re able to get on
pretty well with everybody and we’re not seen to have hidden
He’ll need all those Aussie charms to revive Coke’s battered brand.
1977-1982 - Marketing manager, Far East; regional manager East Asia (All
1984-1991 - President of Central Pacific Division, then North Pacific
Division; then Japan
1991-1999 - President Pacific Group; then Middle and Far East, Africa
Group and Schweppes Beverages
President and chief operating officer, from April 2000 Coca-Cola